Thursday, October 13, 2011

Moved to a new location

This is the final entry of my blog "From The Jersey Shore to the Big Easy." It covered a little more than the first year after my move from New Jersey to New Orleans. My first impressions of the people and the city, my challenges and victories. In Sept of 2011 I finally achieved the goal of moving into the heart of the city, the French Quarter.  So as this latest chapter of my adventure in the Big Easy unfolds, I will be sharing it in a new blog, "Life as a Quarter Rat"

If you are a new reader be sure to go back and check out the old blog by subject or dates. If you have been following my exploits, this next chronicle should really keep you entertained. I hope to focus more on the people that I meet every day within the 70 square blocks that are now my world. Less politics in the writing, more adventures I hope.

Grab a bar stool, and let me tell you what happened to me today......

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Life as a RAT

Tonight I went on my paper route. Started out working on August's cover at the Internet Cafe on Toulouse. Met with the editor Otis at Molly's  for a couple PBRs and talk about how we can take this rag to the next level. I ended up walking around the Quarter dropping off the next fistful at all of the drops. After doing web graphics for so many years, it's great to finally get to see the reactions on faces to my work. The ego digs it.

Zipping in behind Otis as he darted between bewildered tourist looking around as if they just found themselves beamed aboard the Mothership of debauchery. For us it was like running across our backyards to deliver newspapers. Bartenders beamed as a new stack was dropped on their cigarette machine. Bouncers and doormen snatched them from our arms with huge grins like teenage boys who just found their Father's Playboy stash. My artwork has hung in a few nice galleries back in New Jersey but leaving a copy of my latest work clenched between the butt cheeks of a stripper on Bourbon has been the high light of my career.

We dropped a couple of cases at Molly's while we hustled around hundred of copies. Hitting Bourbon and our busiest side streets, we ended up at the Dragon's Den for a final round. Back up to the Canal Street end of Bourbon for the final drops and parted ways at at the streetcar stop. At the end I commented on the wheelchair rims on a metallic lime green Jag. I stood there having a smoke waiting for a Streetcar named DELAYED. When over my shoulder on Bourbon I hear "POP, POP, POP."

By the third pop I was on my hands and knees behind a relay box for the traffic lights. I always make it a point to stand next to heavy object while 6 lanes of drunk drivers surround me.  On the second pop while dropping I could see a muzzle flash from Bourbon next to the sneaker store. Kneeling behind the three foot high metal box I was also protected from being trampled by a thunder of baggy pants and sneakers.

About five to six shots were fired, large caliber, or maybe it was just an echo from the buildings that made the shots sound even more menacing. I looked over at the passengers waiting in the glass streetcar stop laying on the ground. Ground which by the way will make you ill if you stare at it too long.

Fifteen seconds or so after the last shot I peered around the side of my bunker half expecting to see some one who just reloaded after clip one. The only ones standing out in the open were a tourist couple standing on the corner with cell phones taking video. Turned out the driver of the lime green Jag was involved.

"You two are both the luckiest and dumbest mothers fers in the French Quarter." I thought, almost wanting to see these two idiots taken out of the gene pool. The first two cops on scene were mounted on horseback on a Bourbon beat. To see mounted cops riding up Bourbon Street with weapons drawn is better than any fuckin parade I've seen since I've been here.

That was my day at work, I am a Quarter Rat.  New Orleans police investigating shooting on Bourbon Street

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I quit

I've been extremely busy with house painting, working on the Quarter Rat publication and website plus graphic design work. I have to quit something so I am ending may career as a background actor. Please don't try to talk me out of it, my mind is made up. Here are the reasons that made me decide to drop that vocation.
• The pay. Right now the average rate is $80 for ten hours of time. Just about minimum wage. In those same ten hours I can make much more as a house painter. My graphic design fee is $400 for ten hours. Not a hard choice.

• The co-workers. This is the main reason, the recent production that I have worked on and from what I hear from friends who are background actors is that the casting companies are desperate to fill space with anyone they can. One buddy was working a shoot a few weeks ago and said the van ride to the location was unbearable. The van was packed with extras most of which hadn't bathed in weeks. "You know those guys we see under the over pass holding the cardboard signs asking for money? THEY were hired as background. I thought I was going to vomit from the odor. Every other word out of their mouths was a profanity."

• Food. One of the perks that compensated for the low wage was that they used to feed you pretty good. PROFESSIONAL background actors would take reasonable helpings and be happy. The barrel scrapings that have been getting hired lately, they pile the food onto their plates like they haven't eaton in weeks and go back for seconds. I have witnesses an obese old lady stuffing food into her purse from the crafty table. Gee, and I wonder why the next day all we get served is red beans and rice with a slice of watermelon.

• Double standard. Those of us who treat this as a profession and try to do our best dress as we were instructed, stand where instructed and conduct ourselves professionally. However the casting companies just want to meet the numbers required and bring in anyone who answers an E-mail. 

If the scene being shot requires "Casual dinning" street thugs come in with logo em-blazed t-shirts and jeans hanging off of their asses. The wardrobe people don't say shit because they are too scared to. Those extras are placed in deep background out of focus or frame just because no one wants to be the one to tell them to go home because they obviously can't read or don't bother to read the requirements. Meanwhile I just lugged 40 pounds of clothing with me to the holding tent just in case they didn't like my first choice. For $80.

I'll be standing on my mark doing exactly what I am told in the hot sun to look over and see a group of guys sitting in the shade enjoying the bounty they just looted from the crafty table. The Production Assistants eyeball them, but say nothing. 

Now the casting companies whine that they can't get background actors to come in to work. How about this, next time you need bodies, just go down to Poydras and Claiborne with the van, wake up the people sleeping with the cardboard signs and say "Want to be in a movie?"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No place like home...

Back in New Jersey, the number one thing people like to complain about is New Jersey. Too crowded, too expensive, too corrupt, too hectic. If you interrupt their tirade about how Jersey sucks to ask them why don't they move they respond "What?? Leave Jersey?" Residents there have a dysfunctional relation ship with their abusive state spouse. Don't let another state make a joke about it, no matter how true it may be.

When I first moved down here a year ago, I was pretty much jobless, penniless and homeless. Still I felt more at home, more at ease and happier in New Orleans than if I had been given a mansion back in the Garden State.  I have yet to hear a resident here bad mouth the Bid Easy, instead you hear everyone rave about their love of the city like newlywed on a honeymoon.

A new Facebook friend who is serving in the military overseas has been sharing his love story with New Orleans with me. He sent me this Mark Twain quote:
It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans.
- Letter to Pamela Moffett, 9 and 11 March 1859 

Well I hope I don't make him too homesick, but I'll send him a little Dr. John in return. Stay safe Franklin, I'll treat you to a beer when you get back home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

he's dead

Back in the late 1990's I drove commuter bus for Academy Bus Lines up the route 9 corridor to Wall Street. Two of my stops every morning and in the evening was the World Trade Center. In the morning after my run, we parked the buses a few blocks away on a pier literally in the shadows of the twins. I spent many an afternoon in the plaza beneath them, listening to classical musicians play as I downed a dirt water dog for lunch.

My older brother took me up to the top of the towers back in the late 70's after they were constructed.  I never failed to be in awe of them regardless of how many times a day I looked up at them.  When driving charter buses in and out of the five boros of New York City, I could always find my way back to New Jersey by using the towers as a navigation landmark. Magnificent to see at night.

In September of 2001 I was working in north Jersey for a sign company. Driving to the job site on Route 18 we listened dumbstruck to the radio news reports. From the job site, we could see the smoke on the horizon, by mid afternoon a sickening electrical fire smell filled the air. On the ride back to the shop, I tried to remember the faces of my passengers that got on and off of my bus years before.

Things changed for the entire world that day. In the years since bickering has taken place over conspiracies and motives. Does it really matter? Innocents are dead, soldier have died, billions have been wasted. I don't think anyone wears a white hat in this world anymore. No soldiers are coming home today, billions more will be spent and new theories are popping up on the internet.

It's an "US or THEM" world today, I'm happy to be an us.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The view from work

I spent the past week or so working on an apartment in this very historic building. From the balcony I was literally a stone's throw from the Cabildo building where they signed the Louisiana purchase. During my smoke breaks I could walk out on the balcony and listen to the musicians as tourists milled about below me.

Beats driving a cab in Jersey.

 The Pontalba Buildings form two sides of Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
These are matching red-brick block long 4‑story buildings built in the 1840s by the Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; the upper floors are apartments that are the oldest continuously rented such apartments in the United States.

In the short story Hidden Gardens, Truman Capote describes the Pontalba Buildings as "...the oldest, in some ways most somberly elegant, apartment houses in America, the Pontalba Buildings."
They were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974
The Upper and Lower Pontalba Buildings, which line the St. Ann and St. Peter Street sides of Jackson Square, were built in 1850 by the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, the daughter of Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, the Spanish colonial landowner associated with the neighboring Cabildo, Cathedral and Presbytere. Inspired by the imposing Parisian architecture the Baroness favored, the distinctive rowhouses were intended to serve as both elegant residences and fine retail establishments. In 1921 the Pontalba family sold the Lower Pontalba Building to philanthropist William Ratcliff Irby who subsequently, in 1927, bequeathed it to the State Museum.

We finished up the apartment. Yesterday early start, long lunch then worked until 4 am. I slept for a couple of hours on a pile of drop cloths on the balcony over looking Jackson square. 

A lone saxophonist down by the river sung me to sleep in the moon light. Homeless guys fighting over the last swig woke me up.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wm C. Cayle House 1862

It's been a while since I've blogged. I've been too busy with a paying job, painting houses.  A few 14 hour days amongst the past sixty plus days of no days off. I've been surprised with the size and status of some of the work Pride Improvements has been getting. I thinks it's that Jersey work ethic we brought down with us. No offense to the locals, they just have a different approach to work. "Good enough when we get around to it." Back in Jersey contractors had a lot of competition, others always willing to do it for less money, so you have to always do it better. 

Here are some photos from  the Wm C. Cayle house that we have been   working on for the fast few weeks.

Back in Jersey we were use to the burden of restrictive building codes, permits, inspections, bribes,    pay-offs and the occasional union workers slashing tires of non union workers. I won't say what work my boss managed to step in, but was surprised that it didn't go to a local good ol boy. Again, I think it has to do with standards. Most of the new work comes from referrals.

About six months ago I was doing some work for a man. One morning I asked what was on that day's agenda. "This morning you're putting  a new roof on the garage." 
"New roof on the garage? This morning? By myself? That's kind of a big job for one person, besides, I really don't have any roofing experiance..."
" NO you goddamn moron! I bought a new blue tarp at Walmart for the roof."

Oh yea, the blue tarp, the Louisiana state flag. Covering the remains of a garage were about five layers of blue tarps, each one in a worse case of decomposition than the one on top of it. Seeing this I came to the conclusion that it was one more example of the Gulf Coast residents being neglected and pushed aside.

I inquired "What  happened, didn't the insurance company pay for a new roof after the storm?"
"Sure they did. I spent the money on a new lap top so I could watch porn in the privacy of my room.  I just have to buy a new tarp every year.  Now don't be doing something stupid like falling through the remains of the roof while you're stringin it up, I don't want my insurance to go up if you get hurt." 
"Aren't you going to give me a hand? It's getting kind of windy."
 "Hell no, I'm going inside to look at a new web site I found, When you're  done installing the new roof, I want you to rewire the living room electric. The new extension cord  is  in the Walmart bag."

As the screen door slammed behind him,  I said to myself "Welcome  to Louisiana."